Farming in Isan

I never would have guessed there are so many foreigners running farming operations in Thailand: Farming in Thailand Forum
The above sentence is worded awkwardly because it’s apparently illegal for foreigners to do actual work on farms! Actually, that makes a hell of a lot of sense visa-wise because it theoretically deprives a Thai national from performing the same work – it’s just that I never thought there were that many foreigners interested in agricultural there.

Thai “On-arrival” Visa Changes

In a bid to crack down on illegal workers, Thailand is limiting the number of consecutive “on-arrival” visas as of October 1, 2006. Details here and here.
This makes sense. I realize that a lot of people depended on these visas for work, but that’s kind of the point – Thailand wants them to work legally and pay taxes, or get out, and I can’t really fault this line of thinking. I also realize there are people who will suffer who were not working illegally and just don’t qualify for any alternative visas, and I feel for them. Overall, though, it only makes sense that the “on-arrival” visa loophole would be closed at some point.
It looks like the marriage visa I will be applying for will also be changed somehow, but I don’t understand the process enough yet to really comprehend the details.
I love travelling so much, but visa problems are pretty much universally a huge pain in the ass.

Teachers in Thailand under fire

The radical Islamicist problem in southern Thailand is so bad that the authorities are continuing to arm and train school teachers.

“More than 1,700 people have been killed across Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat — the only Muslim-majority provinces in this otherwise peaceful, tourist-friendly Buddhist country.
Among them was a teacher gunned down at his blackboard in July as his 4th graders watched in shock, and a Buddhist art teacher clubbed by a village mob in May until her skull shattered.
Teachers may be targets, officials say, because they are symbols of the central government’s authority, or be taken hostage to be traded for captured insurgents, or because the militants want to do away with secular schools, sending the message that only Islamic schools — which have been spared violence — are safe.”
“While some worry that a teacher’s gun could make him or her more of a target, or end up in a student’s hands, the crisis is so acute that there is little debate about arming teachers.
Shooting courses started in late 2004 but have taken on new urgency since the shocking murder of the 4th-grade teacher July 24 at the Ban Bue Reng primary school in a Narathiwat village.”

Read the full article here: Teachers in Thailand under fire — and learning to shoot back
What a shitty position to be in – crappy salary, low standard of living in an impoverished region, and surrounded by religious nutjobs who can mob together and tear you limb from limb at any given time. These teachers have my respect, big time. The irony of practicing Buddhists being armed with Austrian firepower is offset only by the seriousness of the situation.
Luckily, Nam and I will be living in the northeast of Thailand, far removed from the current problems – and, I might add, most probable targets for terrorist attacks. With things going the way they are now, it’s just a matter of time before something along the lines of the Bali nightclub bombing is repeated in either Phuket or Bangkok. Even so, Nam has friends both on the police force and the army, and we already have dates to start practice on the firing ranges set up – mostly just for fun, but also in case we are lucky enough to get a permit or unofficial waiver to own a firearm. I have a feeling that if things ever really go south over there, we’ll want one around.

Thai Visa Trivia of the Day

For citizens of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka Nepal, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Palestinian State, Nigeria, Afghanistan, China, and North Korea, the Thai visa applicant must first be granted status of residence in Japan.
I wonder if this only applies to people applying to the Royal Thai Consulate in Osaka.

…like a Rhinoceros

Check out this photo gallery of posters in a public restroom in Thailand: LINK
I’m really curious as to where this is located. Are these Cialis ads, or what?

Environmental Monarch

Thai fishermen have declared they will no longer intentionally catch the Mekong Giant Catfish, in honor of their king: LINK
Granted, this only covers part of the problem as the river runs through/is boundary to multiple countries. Plus, I can just imagine the rush of people cutting up nets to collect on multiple $500 payoffs. But still… It speaks a lot for having a monarchy that is respected and revered.
(via Magnoy)

Never called on a long solo

Dave just sent in this article regarding the King of Thailand’s love of jazz. (I hereby refuse to use CNN’s pathetically retarded titles as links anymore.)
No denying the king seems really cool, but it must be pretty damn hard for him to get an honest opinion of his music.
Nam was in Bangkok this weekend and she said there were more yellow shirts than Ojibagaeri (it’s a Tenrikyo thing, baby) in August.

In the grass

Nam called me up in a panic yesterday because she crossed paths with a snake in the yard of our house (in Thailand). She told me it was about a meter long and light green, and she asked what she should do so I said LEAVE IT ALONE, because all I could think of was:
Behold the awesome glory of the White-lipped Pitviper.
Of course, it might have been the Toothless Leaf-eating Snake of Northern Thailand, but I wasn’t about to ask her to see if its head was shaped like a diamond or not (and I’m sure Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin would have agreed with that decision). Meanwhile, the snake decided to escape – up the storm drain of our house and onto the first story roof. Cool!
I told Nam to go get help, but just then a university kid happened to walk by, so he helped her somehow knock the snake off the roof and over the back wall into the adjoining forest. So all ended well, because I had heard before that Thais immediately kill any snakes that come near their homes, but Nam assures me that people in the Isaan region (where our house is) think it’s bad juju to wantonly kill shit, so they just try and get along with nature. That makes the Discovery Channeler in me so goddam happy to hear…
Thailand is not the best place for those squeamish about snakes and crawly things – a large portion of the cobra family (including the King Cobra), krait family (including the beautiful Red-headed Krait), as well as several kinds of waterbound and sea snakes can be found pretty much throughout the country.

King of Siam

You know what? The political situation in Thailand right now is confusing the hell out of me. From what I gather, another round of parliamentary elections was cancelled last weekend, and the king is like, stop screwing around. Oh, and also, stop trying to dump this mess in my lap.
You know what? His Majesty is really showing his smarts. The issue isn’t so much that using his constitutional rights to settle the issue would be partisan (specifically, anti-Thaksin), but that Thailand really needs an effective democratic solution. It isn’t too hard to imagine somebody else in the king’s position just doing the absolute minimum in a puppet role, so it’s very nice to see that he has the skills and the wisdom to match his power.
You know what’s even nicer? The government may be in semi-chaos right now, but it’s still safe to be there… That says a lot about the country and its people. Try that shit next door and there’d be tanks running over students on CNN.


I poke your eye out!
So this is it. Right about now, the sweet memories of my vacation to Thailand are almost completely pushed out of my day-to-day consciousness, so I decided to post my best photo in an effort to fight off the effects of the grind.
I got to close to this silly bird at an ostrich farm located only 15 minutes from Nam’s house, adjacent to a riverside restaurant where we were invited to lunch. I leaned over a rail while looking through my camera’s viewfinder and got a bit too close, and realized I had entered within striking distance just before I hit the shutter release… I hastily stepped backwards and accidentally took this shot as I raised my arm in self defense.
Of course, the ostrich never actually took a nip at me, he just psyched me out and then did this weird victory dance… I still have to look over the video we took to see if that came out or not, and if it did, I’ll post it later.
There’s nothing like an overgrown bird mocking you with a victory dance.